The one thing humans struggle with more than anything else is accepting ourselves for who we are. With the media so focused on who is “perfect” and what qualities make someone “the best,” we tend to pick ourselves apart in deciding if we have those qualities, too. Thus, shattering our ability to self-acceptance.
I am probably a poster child for needing self-acceptance. When I was younger, I was always told I needed to be better—to be the best. I became self-critical and had SO many insecurity issues *in part, due to a few boyfriends*, despite being a pretty well-rounded person.
Self-acceptance vs self-esteem
A lot of people might think self-acceptance and self-esteem are one in the same, but they’re very different. Although improving your self-acceptance usually increases your self-esteem, they’re not interchangeable. Self-esteem relates more to the qualities other people see in us. Whereas, self-acceptance includes ALL aspects of who we are.
This means someone could be happy with how they’re perceived by other people, but still be miserable on the inside because they don’t accept themselves.
How to be happy with who you are
I got good grades, always worked hard at anything I did, yet I still felt like I wasn’t good enough. I was never happy with who I was. I looked in the mirror daily and picked out my own problems and what I needed to do to fix them.
Little did I know all I needed to fix was how I viewed myself. It won’t be an overnight fix, but if you’re having trouble being happy with who you are and achieving self-acceptance, here are the different steps you can take to get there.
#1 Be positive all the time. You would be thoroughly surprised how changing your overall outlook on the world changes the way you also see yourself. According to Psychology Today, it’s actually possible to rewire your brain to be a more positive person.
Every time you have a negative thought, stop yourself and find something good about the situation. It doesn’t have to even be related to you—just in general.
For example, if you’re stuck in traffic after a long day and get angry because you just want to get home and relax, just think to yourself that you get to sit and do almost nothing while listening to great music on the radio. That sounds pretty relaxing to me!
#2 Whenever you’re being critical of yourself, STOP and say three good things instead. Whenever I mess up on a project, there’s always something negative that comes to mind. I didn’t pay enough attention. I could’ve worked harder. I’m not cut out for this type of work. But there are so many better things to be said, too.
When you start being critical of yourself, stop the negative train of thought and replace it with good things instead. Cutting off that negative criticism of yourself retrains your brain to think positive thoughts about you instead, and it’ll make self-acceptance that much easier.
#3 Determine if there are outside factors. The truth is, a lot of outside influences affect our ability to accept ourselves. A rough upbringing with unsupportive parents, the cruel media expectations, and even an old teacher who told you, you weren’t good enough could all be a factor in your non self-acceptance.
If there is something like that in your life, identify it so you can acknowledge it, forgive whatever it is, and then move on. Realizing that there could be a different reason you are that way will make accepting yourself so much easier.
#4 Make a plan. Honestly, if you’re someone who’s had a problem accepting yourself for a long time, it’s going to be more difficult and take longer for you to start now. Make a plan and stick to it. Make a pact with yourself to wake up every day and be happy with yourself.
This not only gives you a reason to get up and try to accept yourself every day, but it forms in you the habit of doing good things for yourself.
#5 Write down every time you do something great. Either keep a notebook handy or make a section in your notes for all the positive things you do daily. Each time you do something that earns a compliment from someone else or even if you just think, “Wow, I did a good job,” write it down somewhere. Then look at those things every night before bed.
#6 Find support. Chances are, if you don’t accept who you are then you probably don’t have a great support system helping you out. Open up to a few friends and family members and let them know how you’ve been feeling about yourself.
You’ll be surprised how fast they jump on your ship and help you out in any way they can. It’s easier to accept yourself when you know how many other’s around you already accept you.
#7 Get rid of critical people in your life. Negativity and self-criticism are contagious. There are probably people in your life that are critical of others and also critical of themselves—all of which transfers onto you.
If there are people like that in your life, you just need to ditch them. They are in no way adding anything good to your life if they’re inhibiting your ability to accept who you are.
#8 Allow yourself to mess up—then forgive yourself for it. Nobody is perfect. But just because you mess up from time to time doesn’t mean you can’t accept yourself. You won’t be successful with everything you do and that’s okay.
As long as you forgive yourself and move on from the event, self-acceptance will be so much easier. The hardest part of this for someone who has always been self-critical is to actually forgive and forget. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
#9 Stop comparing yourself. You can’t expect to be just like someone else. You are your own person and don’t have the exact same qualities as someone else. Stop comparing who you are to who someone else is, because that only makes it more difficult to accept yourself.
Nobody has all the qualities you possess and you don’t have all the qualities someone else possesses. Even identical twins–who share DNA–aren’t going to be the same on all levels. You have to only compare yourself to YOU.
#10 Seek professional help. If your inability to accept yourself takes over your life to a point where you are becoming depressed or having trouble functioning during the day, you may need help. Sometimes there are underlying reasons to your dislike of yourself, and you need a professional to uncover those reasons before you can begin healing.